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Archive for the ‘Chinese Literature’ Category

The Book of Poetry

The Book ot Poetry is the first anthology of Chinese poems. It compiled 305

The-Book-of-Poetry poems written over a period of 500 years spanning from the beginning of Western Zhou Dynasty to the mid-Spring and Autumn Period. The Book of Poctly has three parts: Feng (Songs), Ya (Odes and Epics) and Song (Hymns). Feng includes 160 songs sung by people in 15 city states. Ya includes 105 poems in two parts: “The Book of Odes” and “The Book of Epics.” Song includes 4o poems in three parts: “The Hymns of Zhou,” “The Hymns of Lu,” and “The Hymns of Shang.”

“The Book of Songs” (Feng) is the most significant segment of The Book of Poetry The folksongs of the Zhou Dynasty collected into “The Book of Songs” recount the real life of common people, and express people’s indignation about oppression and their yearning for a happy life. “The Book of Songs” is the wellspring of Chinese realist poetry.

“The Life of Peasants” faithfully captures the wretched lives led by enslaved people. The “Woodcutter’s Song” rouses the slave class to awareness. The angry slaves call the slave owners to account: “How can those who neither reap nor sow have three millions sheaves on their plate? How can those who neither hunt nor chase have in their courtyard the game of each race?” Some poems even describe the direct resistance of slaves to the ruling class, Such as “The Large Rat”. Some poems in “The Book of Songs” capture the trauma caused by forced military service and conscripted labor, for example, “My Lord, My Man is Away, ” and “Returned.” Some love poems in “The Book of Songs” reflect women’s anguish at being forced into marriage and recall young people’s longing and search for happy marriage, as in “A Faithless Man” and “A Rejected Wife.” “Depression,” another love poem, even discloses a deep awareness of resistance. “A Shepherdess” and “Gifts” wish good cheer and call for optimism. All of the poems in “The Book of Songs” are honest expressions of laboring people’s thoughts and feelings.

Many folksongs in “The Book of Songs” criticize and satirize the ruling class’s decadent and promiscuous lifestyles, for example, “Incest”, “The Duke’s Mistress” and “Complaint of a Duchess.”

The most distinctive artistry in “The Book of Songs” lies in its realistic depiction of objects in simple language, mirroring social reality with glimpses of ordinary life. Characterization in “The Book of Songs” is also realistic: authors voice character’s joys and sorrows through the direct expression of their inner feelings. Most poems in “The Book of Songs” were written in three-character lines, rhyming every other line, but there were also five- and seven-character lines as well as lines of irregular length. For example, “The Woodcutter’s Song” was written in the form of irregular lines, that change along with the rising emotions and have distinct rhymes and musical quality. The language used in “The Book of Songs” is focused, elegant and lively.  The skilled application of double-adjectives, rhyming words and alliterations enhance the songs’ artistic appeal. The adoption of the expressive techniques of fu (descriptive prose interspersed with verse), bi (metaphor) and Xing (evocation) greatly reinforce its illustrative power.

Poems in Ya (ode and epics) and Song (hymns) were used by the ruling class for specific occasions. Although they could not match the poems in “The Book of Songs” in their ideological content, they reflected some aspects of social life and therefore also had certain social meaning.

The Book of Poetry splendidly signals the onset of Chinese literature. Its spirit of realism has exerted great influence on the literature of later times. The Book of Poetry enjoys a high reputation in both China’s and the world’s cultural history.